Thursday, 29 April 2010

Two new additions to my collection



I've had the briefest of perusals and already I want to lock myself away in a kitchen and cook the entire Ottolenghi book from front to back. It's an entirely vegetarian cookbook featuring his recipes from the Guardian New Vegetarian column. I love his use of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours with every vegetable under the sun, and the way he makes even the most dull vegetables into incredibly delicious-sounding salads, gratins, omelettes, tarts, etc...now that I have my massive tubs of Za'atar and sumac I will definitely be trying a sumptuous-looking butterbean, feta and sumac salad. Along with everything else. Yum. I love vegetarian food like this, especially because I don't really eat that much meat anyway and these recipes are so scrumptuous that I don't know why you'd want to.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Waxing rhapsodical about rhubarb

This made me very happy last week:


Rhubarb, along with quinces, is one of my favourite home-grown foodstuffs. Unimpressed that the stuff I got in Tesco is in fact from HOLLAND - how ridiculous - but it was reduced and I think it would have gone to waste otherwise, so I was really being ethical. I love the taste of it, but also the colour - I can never quite believe how shockingly pink it is, almost unnaturally so. For that reason it can make any dessert look stunningly beautiful and also a little bit fun. I quite like sharp, almost sour fruit (underripe granny smith apples, underripe plums, passionfruit, cooking apples, raspberries...), and rhubarb has that lovely tartness in abundance, so I like using it in dishes where you would normally use, say, a Bramley apple.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sunday morning pancakes


I've discovered another use for the blowtorch. Or rather, Jon discovered it after I, for no apparent reason, decided to scorch a bit of the pancake that was cooking. You can write on them! I think that the above smiley pancake looks a bit like an amiable version of the nightmare before Christmas. Or possibly the man in the moon. His eyes are a bit too far apart. Slightly scary.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

An ode to the humble quince

"They call for dates and quinces in the pastry" 
~ Romeo and Juliet


Whenever I am cooking with quinces, it is inevitable that one of my housemates will ask what they are, and then remark that they've never tried one. I was on the Waitrose forum (OK, I am slightly ashamed to admit that...let's just move on) last autumn, and someone was asking whether Waitrose would be stocking quinces this year (autumn is British quince season). Their head of customer whatever replied that no, they would not, as there's not enough demand for them.

Ravioli, chicken and a honey tart


Inspired by a dish I ate in a little trattoria in Bergamo a couple of summers ago, I thought I'd make ravioli filled with sausagemeat. I found Luganega sausages at David John's butchers in the covered market - wish I'd known they were there before, as I've been searching for them for a couple of recipes and had never thought - bizarrely - to look in the butchers famous for its sausages. Hmm. It wasn't authentic Italian Luganega, which is sold by the metre and not shaped into links, but its flavourings I think were similar. Anyway, I took the meat out of the casings, crumbled it into a pan with some garlic, tomatoes and fennel seeds, and just cooked it and put it into a bowl to cool. I made the ravioli with tomato puree, which I hoped would make it scarlet but actually just made it a sort of orange colour, but never mind. The filling went in the middle, I shaped it and crimped the edges with a fork, cooked it and served it with a sage butter sauce (quite literally melted butter with sage and black pepper) and lots of grated parmesan. It was lovely. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

An excuse to get out the blowtorch

(and no, it's not to torch my finals revision in a fit of despair)


Tonight, courtesy of my lovely friend Clare, I had the opportunity to whip out the blowtorch I was given for easter (cook's blowtorch, that is - I'm not into welding or anything) on TWO occasions.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A home-grown mushroom omelette

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

~
Sylvia Plath, 'Mushrooms'



My mum bought me a "grow your own mushroom" kit for Christmas. Ignoring the slightly middle-aged connotations of such a present, I was quite pleased, and set it up in my kitchen a few weeks ago. However, it seemed only to become yet another endeavour that serves to prove I absolutely cannot grow anything. Anything. Herbs, plants, fruit, veg...and seeing as a mushroom is a fungus, which makes it basically mould, I took this as quite a personal failure. I can't even grow MOULD.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Pasta, round three


So I found two willing victims on whom to experiment with my pasta ideas. I made ravioli filled with spinach and bacon and served with a creamy (a word I hate, but it had cream it in, so there isn't really an alternative word) blue cheese and walnut sauce. It was superb...but incredibly filling and I now feel slightly queasy. Still, YUM.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Pasta making


Seeing as I am currently facing a daily and uphill struggle to cram my saturated-sponge-like brain with even more English-degree related information, it is only natural that I have also been thinking about things completely unliterary. In a word, getting distracted. I figure distractions are necessary though, otherwise I would actually go mad and wouldn't be able to have a normal conversation with anyone without dropping in a reference to how Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesie is all a large attempt to reconfigure the reputation of poetry as something masculine and thereby lament the decline of opportunities for martial prowess in the increasingly effeminate and inactive Elizabethan court.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Roast pheasant, Moroccan style


One of the best things about my parents' frequent trips to visit their baby in Yorkshire (not a literal baby, fortunately, but the new house they are building) is the excellent meat they bring back from Kendalls butchers. Most recently, this included a brace of Nidderdale pheasant. I do always worry a little when eating Yorkshire pheasant - our garden in Yorkshire has a resident pheasant who struts around the building work with his tail aloft, and I cross my fingers that it isn't he who has ended up on my plate. In fact, there he is below (that is the actual pheasant, even though it looks like I've just lifted the photo from Google Images - you have my brother's excellent camera to thank for that). Still strutting, so hopefully he is savvy enough to escape the shotguns.

"With which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings"

"That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper, of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings" ~ Jane Eyre, Chapter 8



Clearly Jane was a woman after my own heart. My food-related inward cravings seem to define my life...and today I was inwardly craving a nice big piece of warm banana cake and a cup of tea.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Easter delights


So I know it's not exactly haute cuisine, but it is quite fun and I thought deserved a picture. After my boyfriend gave me a Disney easter egg (which made my day - it came with a mug and everything) I figured he should have a present too. Obviously my presents to people are pretty much always edible, so I thought a vast cake would do the trick. The sponge is coffee and the icing is chocolate.
And those little chicks...I think they would have to be one of the defining symbols of my childhood. Around easter, my mum and I would always bake little chocolate cornflake nests or little easter cupcakes, and we always seemed to have a plentiful supply of the little things. So naturally, when traipsing round town to find them for this, they were nowhere to be seen. Eventually I tracked some down in Paperchase, and the sight of their little beady eyes actually made my day.
It was pointed out to me when I gave him the cake that the "mummy chick", as I called her, should not really be a chick but a hen. However, in this modern world of teenage pregnancies and the like, you never know...

Friday, 9 April 2010

COOKING DOESN'T GET TOUGHER (or more formulaic) THAN THIS



I am a huge Masterchef fan. I suppose that's quite predictable, really, seeing as I love food and everything related to it. More than the food aspect, though, I love the totally formulaic nature of Masterchef. In fact, proof of said formulaic nature can be found in the fact that there is now a "Masterchef Drinking Game" on Facebook. The idea is you drink whenever any of the stock formulae come up, which include Greg talking about his sweet tooth, scallops being served, a chef in the pro kitchen asking "How long for the ___?", being told how long, and then saying "Not good enough, I want it in [half the amount of minutes he was told]". It's truly brilliant stuff.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Beginnings


After promptings from various friends, and far too many targeted Facebook adverts offering me diet pills (though I must add here that I am not in need of them, though I don't understand how, given my gluttony...my friend Nick once said something along the lines of, "Elly, you'll never get a job anywhere, because people will read your CV, assume you are morbidly obese and not invite you for interview"), I decided my obsession with food should no longer remain confined to random postings on Facebook and the occasional uploaded blurry iPhone photo. Admittedly the photography will still be quite bad, despite my excellent camera, because I have not yet figured out how to use it. Having had a look at various food blogs, I am saddened by the fact that I will never be able to achieve the same beautiful, thought out photos of my culinary creations, largely because my student kitchen is unfortunately not the most beautiful setting, being largely flourescent yellow and faux-granite, and my crockery collection is severely limited, normally to what I can find that is vaguely clean and isn't languishing in a mouldy pile next to the sink. But I like to think that is what gives my kitchen its charm...mismatched cutlery, blunt knives, an odd collection of random utensils.